• Class Number 7767
  • Term Code 3460
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Lindell Bromham
    • Prof Lindell Bromham
    • Prof Marcel Cardillo
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 22/07/2024
  • Class End Date 25/10/2024
  • Census Date 31/08/2024
  • Last Date to Enrol 29/07/2024
SELT Survey Results

This course deals with patterns of biodiversity at large spatial and temporal scales, and the processes that have generated these patterns. Surprisingly, there are many fundamental questions about biodiversity that remain a matter of debate. For example, why are there so many species in the tropics? Did the extinction of dinosaurs pave the way for the rise of mammals? What causes one species to diverge into two? Equally surprisingly to many people, it is possible to test “big-picture” questions like these using a set of basic logical principles and analytical tools, and an ever-expanding database of molecular, geographic and ecological information on the world's species. The aim of this course is not to present you with facts to memorize, but to equip you with the skills to ask interesting questions about biodiversity, and develop creative and elegant ways to answer them. This is a challenging and rewarding course that requires students to think creatively, take charge of framing, investigating and answering questions, consider different viewpoints and come to their own opinions. The course is taught through workshops which give students a chance to explore and discuss ideas, so attendance of all face-to-face classes is an essential component of this course. The course emphasizes individual study and critical thinking.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Formulate explanations of observed patterns of biodiversity and species distributions in terms of key ecological and evolutionary processes;
  2. Investigate topics in biodiversity by searching, evaluating and synthesizing relevant literature;
  3. Recognize the features of a statistically rigorous and effective test of a question or hypothesis in biodiversity;
  4. Analyze and interpret biodiversity patterns using specialist computer software and widely-used analytical methods.

Research-Led Teaching

Students are expected to read one chapter of the textbook every week plus any required readings provided on the wattle page. Students must also commit to carrying out independent study every week to support their learning and contribute to assessment items.

Field Trips


Required Resources

Students must have regular access to the textbook, either by purchasing their own paper or electronic copy, or by accessing the limited number of copies in the library.

Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Other Information

Please note that attendance at three workshop classes per week is not compulsory, however the discussions occurring in workshop classes will not be recorded, therefore attendance at classes is an important part of completing this course.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Weeks 1-12Workshop: interactive discussion based classes Participation in all scheduled classes is an expectation of this course. Classes are run in person and will not be recorded. There are no lecture notes or powerpoints provided to students.

Tutorial Registration

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Learning Outcomes
Online quizzes 16 % 1
Computer-based workshops with accompanying written reports 15 % 3,4
Three in-class tests 45 % 1,2,3
Explainer of a key idea in macroevolution and macroecology + feedback on explainers 24 % 2

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines , which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Integrity Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Skills website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


All students are expected to actively participate in all classes, including contributing to both small group and whole class discussions, and to provide constructive peer feedback to other students

Assessment Task 1

Value: 16 %
Learning Outcomes: 1

Online quizzes

Weekly online quizzes of four multiple choice questions encourage students to keep up with the course material and provide regular checks on your understanding. Quizzes in Weeks 1 and 2 do not contribute to the course mark, all other quizzes are compulsory and contribute. 4 questions per week, 0.5 for each correct answer, 0 for any incorrect answer, 0 for uncompleted questions - scores as assessed automatically in Wattle and added to grade book, correct answers will be released after the quiz closes. Assessable quizzes will be made available on Wattle for a limited period on scheduled days. Details will be given at the beginning of semester.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 3,4

Computer-based workshops with accompanying written reports

These activities will give you a useful introduction to the free, open-source, and widely-used statistical programming language R, and some of the tools it includes for handling and analyzing phylogenies and biodiversity data. You can complete the activities on your own computer in the regular class time, with support from teaching staff, or you can complete these activities in your own time. You will then submit your practical reports via Wattle at the end of Semester (for due date see Wattle). 

Assessment Task 3

Value: 45 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Three in-class tests

The tests are scheduled in class times, see Wattle for details on dates and times. Each test covers approximately 4 weeks of the course, and will include all the material covered in that period, including ideas discussed in classes and concepts from the background reading.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 24 %
Learning Outcomes: 2

Explainer of a key idea in macroevolution and macroecology + feedback on explainers

Choose a tricky idea or interesting debate in macroevolution and macroecology and explain the key points, using any medium you like – e.g. magazine article, video, graphic novel, animation, seminar presentation, picture book, song, synchronized swimming routine, anything. The explainer will be judged entirely on how well it explains the concept or debate, not on the presentation medium. The explainer will be presented to the class on Wattle. Peer and teacher feedback will help you refine your explainer before you submit it for grading. Students are expected to work in groups of up to five people but individuals can seek permission to complete an individual project instead. You are free to choose the format (e.g. written, electronic media, presentation, graphical) but all explainers will be judged by the same criteria, focussing on how well they explain an important concept in macroevolution and macroecology. You will submit a draft of your explainer to the wattle site where it can be viewed by the rest of the class. All class members will then give detailed and constructive feedback on the explainer. The explainers are considered a core part of the class material and your contributions to feedback are an assessable activity.

Details of assessment of explainer feedback will be posted on the Wattle page. 

Due date: will be provided on the wattle site

Individual Assessment in Group Tasks (where applicable): All students will share the same mark, and the output must be commensurate with the number of students involved.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material. Any use of artificial intelligence must be properly referenced. Failure to properly cite use of Generative AI will be considered a breach of academic integrity.

Returning Assignments

Assignments will be submitted via Wattle

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments


Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

  • ANU Health, safety & wellbeing for medical services, counselling, mental health and spiritual support
  • ANU Accessibility for students with a disability or ongoing or chronic illness
  • ANU Dean of Students for confidential, impartial advice and help to resolve problems between students and the academic or administrative areas of the University
  • ANU Academic Skills supports you make your own decisions about how you learn and manage your workload.
  • ANU Counselling promotes, supports and enhances mental health and wellbeing within the University student community.
  • ANUSA supports and represents all ANU students
Prof Lindell Bromham

Research Interests

Prof Lindell Bromham

By Appointment
Prof Lindell Bromham

Research Interests

Prof Lindell Bromham

By Appointment
Prof Marcel Cardillo

Research Interests

Prof Marcel Cardillo


Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions